Minecraft has been a global phenomenon over the past half decade, but no one has truly tried to do something new with that formula. Many games have tried to clone it, but a different spin on the world-building genre hasn’t been attempted until now. LEGO Worlds is another Travelers Tales game that uses the usual mix of macros for building and puzzle solving, but only a far grander scale. You have an entire world to explore, but those seeking something far daunting can enjoy it in bite-size chunks.
Minecraft as an idea always intrigued me – but the execution didn’t. I loved building things with LEGO bricks as a kid and never even got the playsets. I would just get a bunch of bricks and make whatever I wanted using my imagination. LEGO Worlds offers up something that the 10 year old version of me would have absolutely adored – and that the adult version of me can still enjoy and rekindle a bit of that spark of creativity without absolutely having to. That requirement of creativity is one thing that always hurt Minecraft, and having freedom – but not too much of it alongside a fairly rough guide of what to do helps. Here, the goal is to acquire gold chests in each world to then unlock new worlds.
This is an easy goal to accomplish most of the time, but there are times when gathering gold bricks is harder than it should be due to poor explanations. If you’re told to fetch something and aren’t given a clear indicator, it can feel a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, there are only so many action buttons to work with – two to be exact, so it’s usually just a matter of searching around and finding an item, adding it to your lineup and putting it where it’s needed. Basic items can be added and then unlocked with LEGO studs, offering up a reason to keep destroying things since most objects give you a small supply of them when smashed.
LEGO Worlds is familiar in some ways, but is more than just a Minecraft clone. You can use your tools to either suck in items for use or destroy the world or add large chunks of certain assets to craft something new. Your scanner tool is a bit like the one in Metroid Prime, where you don’t have to scan everything – but doing so makes your life much easier. The more parts you scan, the more you have to work with when it comes to building the world.
Terrain shaping allows you to create things like mountains, grasslands, castles, or just about anything you want. Unlike Minecraft, the worlds aren’t infinite – they are capped, but this doesn’t limit you in a practical way. You can do a lot in each type of world, and the different motifs each stand out. Exploring and revamping an ice world feels different than a dungeon-based level where things feel more akin to a combat-centric Legend of Zelda game.
Making the world your own is fun to do so and it’s surprisingly easy. You can use a flatten tool to make things more platformer-esque if you’d like, or just craft giant mountains to climb if you so desire. Worlds feels like an exploration/building hybrid that rewards trying new things. You can explore areas with animals and vehicles, and have a wide variety of them to choose from. The usual mix of cars and trucks can be used on land, while water-based lands and areas can be explored with boats and even a submarine.
Vehicle riding and horseback works fairly well. You’re not going to choose this over say Forza Horizon any time soon, but vehicles do control well and you’ll go where you want to easily enough. The many modern aspects of this remind me a lot of how the Earthbound series gained acclaim simply for being in a contemporary setting and standing out immediately. Having things like cars and skyscrapers in a game that one would normally associate with things like nature and world-building makes it far more approachable to newcomers and reduces the level of intimidation.
For the most part, LEGO Worlds controls very well – but combat is very hit or miss. Your default method of defending yourself is fisticuffs, but you will eventually get things like swords, or even various kinds of fish to ward off attackers. Guns and other such firearms can help too – but what hurts all of them is the lack of a proper targeting system. It’s strange, but going back to the old day of “shoot in the general direction of your enemy” works, but not very well. Fortunately, death is just a minor setback in the ground scheme of things here. However, it’s puzzling to see a game released in the modern era without some kind of targeting system in place.
Visually, LEGO Worlds features an impressive sense of scale and gorgeous texture work. Some of the details seen on the ground are incredible – and it’s surprising to see just how much work went into a game that could have easily been phoned-in graphically and gotten by just fine. You can see each individual brick being used if you want, and that never leads to slowdown. This holds true when you’re climbing large structures – but not when you’re engaged in a lot of combat. At night, when you’re surrounded by enemies, things can slow to a crawl and that definitely hurts the overall experience a bit. Fortunately, the world itself is gorgeous outside of framerate drops and the level of lighting effects on display at one time can be staggering in a great way.
The sound design in LEGO Worlds is solid, but nothing incredible. The music is pleasing, and the voiceover narration thrown in from time to time is amusing – but won’t make you laugh as much as it will elicit an occasional light chuckle. That’s not an altogether bad thing as going non-stop with comedic narration can work against the game, and here, the music carries the sound more than anything else. The soundtrack is surprisingly epic at times too, and very enjoyable. Punching and other attacks sound reasonably good – and sound about what you would expect, or perhaps remember, the sound of plastic smacking against itself in toy form.
LEGO Worlds manages to provide something that works as both a world-building game and also a more structured action-adventure. It’s hard to imagine this lofty concept being done much better – but there is still room for improvement. The framerate issues certainly hurt things, as do poor aiming – which makes combat more of a chore than it should be. A surprisingly well-executed vehicle mechanic keeps that aspect of things fresh and enjoyable, and those looking for a family-friendly game that everyone can enjoy and get something out of, should check out LEGO Worlds. It does just enough similarly to Minecraft to work as something they’ll enjoy, while also doing enough things differently to stand on its own. The ability to either have more freedom or more structure works in the game’s favor, and opens up the world of world-building games once again by making things far more user-friendly than Minecraft.